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High Holidays Yield Stress for Students

Voice writer Karin Israel​ takes a look at the drastic difference in class accommodations for the observation of Jewish holidays.

f_8220130453177395Growing up in a predominately Jewish area, I never really felt out of place because, well, there were just so many Jews in my town. Everyone knew when all of the Jewish holidays were, about the traditions, and customary Jewish foods, even if they weren’t Jewish. Once I moved to Boston, however, things were very different.

I know a total of three Jewish people in the city and unlike my high school experience where we had every major Jewish holiday off; Suffolk doesn’t close on any Jewish holiday. Even Yom Kippur, the holiest of high Jewish holidays, is a scheduled school day. In Judaism, Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement where Jews ask God to forgive all the bad things they have done throughout the previous year so that they may be inscribed in the book of life.

During this holiday we are not allowed to eat or drink, use any electronics, take transportation, etc. While the Jewish population at Suffolk isn’t very high, I believe we should still have the major Jewish holidays off to respect those that do celebrate. Most teachers have been accepting of this holiday and will excuse an absence and allow for make-up work. However, it is difficult to have to miss class and catch up on missed assignments. This is made even harder when individuals who keep the holiday can’t do any work because of the electronics restrictions and therefore need even more days to catch up than are offered. Meanwhile, classes still continue on with new material, and students missing class can easily fall behind.

Although allowing time off for religious observation is a clause included in the Suffolk handbook, some teachers are not as understanding. My roommate, who is one of the few Jewish people I know in Boston, had a professor who made her to take an online quiz the day of Yom Kippur and did not allow any accommodations in recognition of the religious holiday. This is unfair as it forced her to sacrifice the beliefs and traditions that she grew up with in order to avoid negatively impacting her grade. I too had an exam that was scheduled on Yom Kippur but was thankfully able to make it up because my teacher was more understanding. While I do not believe that universities should cancel classes for every single Jewish Holiday, it seems only fair that the high holidays should be considered, or at least that professors are required to be more mindful about the time constraints surrounding them.

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